Seattle Sounders FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy are longtime rivals and were the top two teams in Major League Soccer during the regular season.
So it struck the Sounders as only fitting — almost inevitable — that the path to their goal of the club’s first MLS Cup would take them through LA.
“I guess that’s the way scriptwriters put it out,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We knew the road would eventually go through there, as we knew the road would eventually go through us. It’s probably appropriate that the two of us meet. We just have to be ready and we will be.”
Los Angeles and Seattle each went into the final two games of the MLS season as the only remaining contenders for Supporters’ Shield, indicative of the league’s best regular-season record. And those two games were head-to-head matches. The Sounders took their first Shield with a 2-2 draw in LA and followed by a hardware-clinching 2-0 win in Seattle.
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Now the teams will face that same configuration of games for the right to advance to the MLS Cup. Their two-leg, aggregate-score series begins at 2 p.m. Nov. 23 at StubHub Center in Carson, California, and concludes at 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at CenturyLink Field. Road goals again will serve as the first tiebreaker.
A lone away goal is what put the Sounders through in their Western Conference semifinal series: a 1-1 win at Dallas followed by a 0-0 draw Monday in Seattle.
Los Angeles advanced by following a scoreless draw at Real Salt Lake with an emphatic 5-0 pounding of RSL in Southern California.
“We know LA is a good team,” Schmid said. “Salt Lake is a good team, and (the Galaxy) win (Sunday) was a little bit surprising… We know we have to be ready, we have to play well. We also know that we can play them, and even if we’re down we can come back. With LA I know there is going to be more opportunities (for Sounders forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins), and there are going to be more chances just because of the way they play. It’s going to be a great series.”
Because the Sounders and Galaxy finished 1-2 in MLS this season, whichever team advances from this series will play host to the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7. New England and New York are paired in the Eastern Conference final.
Seattle finished atop the league with 64 points while setting a club record with 20 wins. Los Angeles finished second with 61 points, leading the league in goals (69) and goal differential (plus-32).
Head to head the teams went 1-1-1 during the regular season, with the 2-2 draw coming in the only meeting at Los Angeles.
The teams have met twice before in the playoffs, with Los Angeles advancing on 3-1 aggregate in the 2010 conference semifinals and 4-2 in the 2012 conference final.
“We are a team that believes in ourselves,” Dempsey said. “To win the Supporters’ Shield we had to play two games against them and get the right result. So we’re a team that’s done well this season in terms of silverware: the U.S. Open Cup and winning the league. We have that confidence moving forward, so we feel good.”
Schmid said that midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who left the Dallas game with a hamstring injury, will be given the rest of this week off but is expected to be ready for the LA opener. … The United States national team announced Monday that Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin has been called in for a pair of friendlies: Friday vs. Colombia in London and Nov. 18 vs. Ireland in Dublin. However, the call-up comes during an international break in the MLS playoffs, and should not affect his availability for the Galaxy series. … The Sounders will train again Wednesday and Thursday before enjoying a rare three-day weekend off, in accordance with the league’s collective bargaining agreement regarding teams that will play during Thanksgiving week.